Weekly Whale Feature: 'Spot'

Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010

Spot is a fun whale to watch. The black spot on the right side of the fluke is where this whale gets its nickname.

Name: "Spot" / NOAA official #SEAK 1434

Gender: Male, born 1994. (this information not confirmed)

When to look: Spot has visited local waters at least every year for the last five years. This whale usually arrives in the middle of the summer and stays until late fall or winter.

Where: Waters near Juneau. Spot likes to move around, so it's possible to see Spot anywhere in the Juneau area. North Pass seems to be one of Spot's favorite places in August and early September. This whale is a social whale and seems to enjoy being around other whales most of the time. Occasionally, he can be found by himself.

Markings: Spot has one of the easiest tails to recognize. He can be identified by a black and white tail with a black spot on the underside of his fluke, near the middle of the right side. He has a flat, triangle-shaped dorsal fin that drops off near the rear. There are also small, whitish marks etched along the top of the dorsal. About ⅓ of his left pectoral fin is missing. I think this may be the result of a killer whale attack or a mishap with a boat; but he defiantly is not afraid of boats.

Behavior: Spot is great! If there is a whale that is most likely to pop up right next to a boat, it would be Spot. But Spot is also very unpredictable. He might do something fantastic like a breach or a tail lob. His dive times are usually from four to 10 minutes, and his fluke usually comes high out of the water before a deep dive. I have watched Spot participate in bubble feeding with a pod (not necessarily the same pods each time) of other humpbacks in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. But he's not one to be bubble feeding from morning until sunset, like the pods of bubble feeders that come to Juneau for short periods of time. I believe males, as opposed to female whales, are more likely to be active when it comes to breaching, tail lobbing, etc.

Notes: I have a picture of Spot's left eye. While on a whale watching tour, the group had been floating in the water with the engines off for about 20 minutes between Aaron and Shelter Islands. The group was watching about 10 different whales surface and dive, and listening to them breathe. All of the sudden Spot surfaced about 20 yards away, headed right toward the boat. I turned one of my engines on (leaving it in neutral) so he would know we were there. He then looked up at me as he rolled onto his right side and gracefully slid under the bow of our boat. He was not more than two feet away from us. Surfacing on the other side of the boat, he changed directions, checked us out for a bit, then continued on his way. I've had similar encounters twice with Spot. He is a really cool whale!

• The "Weekly Whale Feature" is compiled by Jay Beedle, a longtime Juneau resident who makes his home on Shelter Island. He is a photographer and co-owns Harv and Marv's Outback Alaska, which offers whale watching tours during summer months. For more information about his photography contact Gretchen Pence at gretchenpence@islandimagesalaska.com or at 789-0089.

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